by Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos and Mike U. Crismundo
President Duterte has allocated yesterday P2 billion worth of relief for the victims of the 6.7-magnitude earthquake that shook Surigao del Norte on Friday.
According to the President, he will release the fund through Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo who leads the relief efforts for the earthquake victims.
He added that the fund is intended for the purchase of medicines for the victims especially those who sustained trauma injuries.
Seven people have been reported killed due to the quake as of Sunday afternoon.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reminded the public to be cautious of structures visibly weakened or damaged by the 6.7-magnitude earthquake in Surigao del Norte as aftershocks and other seismic hazards may still happen in the coming days.
On Sunday, a series of light tectonic tremors hit Surigao City anew with magnitude scales ranging from 2.2 to 4.1. Phivolcs said these were offshoots to the powerful 6.7 quake last Friday night since the area was its ground zero.
A 4.3-magnitude earthquake shook Surigao City anew on Sunday at 11:01 a.m. and its epicenter was plotted 15 kilometers (km) southwest of this city, with a shallow depth of only 5 km.
Phivolcs warned these aftershocks may continue for several days to weeks some of which may be felt. However, the probability of an earthquake registering higher than 6.7 magnitude to occur remains low.
President Duterte personally visited the earthquake victims on Sunday morning to convey his sympathies to the families of those who died and to oversee relief operations.
Speaking in Bisaya, the President apologized for the delay of government help to reach the quake victims, citing the damaged roads and infrastructures as the cause of delay.
He also apologized for his late arrival, saying it took him a while due to the unavailability of aircraft and the damage in infrastructure particularly to the Surigao Airport. Duterte was scheduled to arrive at 10:30 a.m.
The President ordered all concerned line agencies of the government to fast-track the rehabilitation and repair works of damaged infrastructures and relief operations to earthquake victims, the strongest to hit the city since 1879.
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade ordered the immediate rehabilitation and repairs of damaged runway and other airport facilities as he issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) closing the airport for repair and rehabilitation.
Due to severe damage on the runway of Surigao City Airport, all flights in Surigao City are now diverted to Butuan City (Bancasi) National Airport.
Surigao City Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Officer-in-Charge Engr. Junelito Abrazado declared that Surigao City Airport is not suitable for all flights “going in and out” due to the extent of damage to its runway.
Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar also appealed for clean drinking water for residents of Surigao City and other earthquake-hit areas in Surigao del Norte.
Andanar, a native of Surigao, said non-government organizations and private individuals who want to send assistance may coordinate with the DSWD.
It was reported that disaster response volunteers had to pacify the crowd which arrived at the Surigao City Auditorium as the people were asking why it was taking a long time for relief to be distributed.
The government, headed by the DSWD, distributed around 3,500 relief bags to the families from 28 barangays affected by the quake.
The President met with local government officials in Surigao for damage assessment and told them that the priority now is to help the victims.
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar said they have allocated more than P200 million for the construction of major bridges in the province.
A total of five roads and six bridges in Surigao del Norte were damaged. The Anao-aon Bridge remains impassable to vehicles after its collapse.
The rehabilitation and repair of damaged infrastructures and business establishments have started in Surigao City and four towns in Surigao del Norte yesterday. Earth-moving equipments, engineers, technical men and workers from the local government units and concerned line agencies of the government and from other local governments in Caraga region are on the ground to conduct massive rehabilitation and repair works to damaged roads due to cracks, buckling, blow-up of concrete and asphalt pavements in this city and neighboring towns.
“All our men from the different district engineering offices (DEOs) in various provinces and cities are here for a wide rehabilitation and repair effort,” Regional Director Engr. Danilo E. Versola of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH 13) said.
He added that round-the-clock operation is taking place until the roads are already cleared of debris, stones and other hard materials.
NO POWER, WATER
“We need more engineers and workers to help us in restoring our damaged roads, including water facilities,” Surigao City Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas said.
Meanwhile, the city’s 152,543 inhabitants are suffering now from the absence of potable water. Power supply returned at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday in this city and some areas in Surigao del Norte.
Mayor Matugas said the city government is initially allocating some P30 million for the rehabilitation and repair of some damaged structures and relief operations to severely affected families, especially the residents whose houses totally collapsed during the powerful earthquake.
“We’re prioritizing rehabilitation to damaged roads and other structures so that our economic activity will not be hampered while we are also focusing the needs of residents in terms of immediate relief assistance,” the city chief executive added.
Classes in all levels in both public and private schools are suspended while no work is declared in both government and private institutions until further notice.
FROM COMBAT DUTY TO HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
Fresh from their ongoing operations against the New People’s Army (NPA), the combat maneuvering troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines immediately shifted to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) operations in areas that were badly hit by the earthquake in Surigao City and Surigao del Norte.
Lt. Col. Rico Amaro, commanding officer of the 30th Infantry Battalion (30th IB) directed his troops to immediately respond and assist the communities within the unit’s area of responsibility that were badly affected by the earthquake.
Troops under Alpha Company of the 30th IB were able to assist the communities in San Francisco, Surigao del Norte. Three severely injured residents were rescued and brought to the Caraga Regional Hospital here.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Sunday said that a total of 1,034 families or 5,170 persons from five municipalities in the province of Surigao del Norte were displaced by the earthquake.
Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, NDRRMC Executive Director and concurrent administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) identified four of the victims, including a four-year-old boy from Surigao City who died in the earthquake: Robert Eludo Jr., 40, of Purok 1, Barangay Bilabid; JM Ariar, 4, of Sitio Aton, Barangay Ipil; Lito R. Wilson, 36, of Purok 4, Barangay San Juan; and Lorenzo L. Dequino 86, of Purok 5, Barangay Poctoy, all of Surigao City.
Jalad also said that as of 8 a.m. Sunday, a total of 202 persons were injured and brought to four hospitals, namely: Caraga Regional Hospital in Surigao City, Surigao Medical Center, Miranda Family Hospital, and Malimono District Hospital.
Jalad also said that a total of 1,034 houses in Mainit, Malimono, San Francisco, Sison City and Surigao City, all in Surigao del Norte were damaged as well as12 schools.
LANDSLIDES, ROCK FALLS
Phivolcs said other life-threatening hazards such as landslides, rock falls and other types of mass movements may develop in mountainous areas as a result of the earthquake. Liquefaction, manifested by sand boils or lateral spread may also affect low-lying, water-logged, and sandy areas at the riverbanks.
Phivolcs advised citizens living or working in houses and other structures that have incurred noticeable damage following the quake to immediately seek guidance from their Municipal or City Engineering Office.
Engineers from the local government, other agencies and organizations were told to inspect buildings and other infrastructures to determine their integrity, and recommend appropriate actions to concerned groups or individuals.
“Slopes should be checked for tension cracks that may have resulted from the strong ground shaking. Tension cracks may make slopes more susceptible to landslides. These areas should be avoided,” Phivolcs said.
Phivolcs called on residents in the affected areas to protect themselves by doing the “duck, cover and hold” routine in case another palpable earthquake strikes. Those staying in homes or offices were cautioned against heavy objects that might cause them injuries.
The agency said it is keeping its eyes peeled on future tremors in Surigao del Norte through its staff-controlled seismic stations in Surigao City and Bislig, Surigao del Sur and its remote-telemetered seismic stations in Maasin, Southern Leyte; General Luna, Surigao del Norte; and Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.
The regional office of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI 13) on Sunday issued a price freeze on basic commodities in this northeastern-tip city following the declaration of a state of calamity on Saturday due to the powerful 6.7-magnitude earthquake that struck here on Friday night.
Violators of the price freeze order may suffer imprisonment for a year to 10 years, or a fine ranging from P5,000 to P1,000,000, said DTI 13 Regional Director Brielgo O. Pagaran.
He said prices of basic necessities were automatically frozen at their prevailing prices, which shall be the average price of the basic necessity within a month from the occurrence of the state of calamity.
Citing Republic Act 7581, or the Price Act of the Philippines, the DTI said the price freeze should remain in effect for the duration of the state of calamity, but not for more than 60 days, provided that for household LPG and kerosene, the duration should not be more than 15 days.
Prices of basic goods which include canned sardines, processed milk, bottled water, locally manufactured instant noodles, coffee, detergent soap, bread, candles, salt, rice, corn, cooking oil, fresh pork, fresh beef, fresh poultry meat, fresh and dried fish and other marine products, fresh egg, fresh milk, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, root crops, and sugar shall remain the same for the next 60 days.
PRAYER FOR SURIGAO
Bishop Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao has released a prayer following the strong earthquake that hit the province Friday:
“Father all powerful and most loving, You have spared your faithful in the Diocese of Surigao from greater harm amidst the strong earthquake. We thank you for sparing so many from death and destruction.
Shaken but more dependent on your Love and Providence, we move on in the journey as a people of communion in our Basic Ecclesial Communities. We implore the help of Our Lady of Lourdes, to whom we turn our gaze, to stay with us and lead us safely to the peace of Jesus, her Son. Amen.”
Earlier, a priest from the diocese called on the faithful to remain vigilant as aftershocks continue to be felt. Fr. Bob Puracan, diocesan chancellor, also called on people of good will to be generous at this time.
“Perhaps, it is on this trying times that we can truly express our communion, sharing what we have and helping those who needs our assistance,” he told CBCP News.
HERCULES OF RELIEF
A Lockheed C-130 “Hercules” cargo aircraft laden with relief supplies for the earthquake victims landed in Butuan City National Airport on Sunday.
According to initial report from the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC), the “Hercules” cargo aircraft was loaded with 10 generator sets, 150 solar lamps, 30,000 pieces of “HEB”, 4,090 bars of brown rice, 100 rolls of laminated sacks, 2,000 pieces of mosquito nets, 2,000 plastic mats, and 2,000 blankets. (With reports from Aytch dela Cruz, Francis T. Wakefield, and Leslie Ann G. Aquino)